If you’ve had your parents jump through medical hoops for you for most of your life, being in charge of your own health or navigating student health services can be daunting. Whether you’re a freshman moving into your college dorm for the first time or just about to start your senior year, it is essential to have the tools to advocate for your health, especially when it comes to sexual and reproductive health concerns.
We asked Dr. Sophia Yen—co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Pandia Health, the only doctor-led and women-founded and -led birth control delivery company—some of our most burning questions about sexual healthcare. Here’s what you should know.
1. When it comes to your reproductive health, you shouldn’t have to suffer.
If your body is giving you signals that it is in pain—irregular periods, urinary tract infections (UTIs), vaginal dryness—doctors can help! Many women have been taught to accept pain and discomfort as “normal,” but Yen stands by the fact that gynecologists and doctors are well-equipped with the tools to help you, especially if your symptoms persist.
2. You may have to speak up.
In an ideal world, doctors would simply listen to you, but in the chance that you are being dismissed, you are entitled to speak up. Whether that be through using student health services or consulting experts at doctor-led initiatives like Pandia Health, your sexual and reproductive health needs can be met by well-trained doctors that are trained to respect diversity in genders, body types, etc.
3. You can make #PeriodsOptional.
Yen has dedicated her career to advocating for menstruators and providing them with the option to safely eliminate their periods completely. For students, heavy bleeding, irregular periods and the fear of pregnancy can cause a lot of stress that can be easily alleviated by consulting an informed physician or OB-GYN to order the right kind of medication for your body type.
Stopping or skipping your period “decreases your chance of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancer,” she told Ms. “Every time you pop out an egg, you risk ovarian cancer,” Yen explained. “Every time you bleed because you had to grow and shed and grow back again that [uterine] lining, you risk endometrial cancer. The fewer times you do that, the less risk of cancer!”
Not having a period can also be better for workflow and productivity. Skipping cycles saves money, too, as periods can cost women thousands of dollars over their lifetimes.
4. Each person reacts to drugs differently.
If you’ve never been on birth control and are feeling like it’s time to go on it, make sure to talk to your doctor to create a personalized plan for you. Like all other medication, different bodies need different levels of hormones in birth control—namely, estrogen and progesterone—to have their intended effect. What may work for your friends may not work for you. There are so many different types of tools—pills, rings, patches and more—and each of them are designed for different bodies. Take the time to communicate your needs to your healthcare provider!
5. Don’t neglect yourself.
Make sure you regularly get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), stay up-to-date on your vaccines and doctors appointments, and cultivate a relationship with a healthcare provider at your school that works for you. Being at school is the perfect time to take charge of your own healthcare, whether that means gender-affirming care, questions about sexual health or working to establish lifestyle routines that work for you.
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